Monday Tip: Wall or Turner?
College basketball’s great debate is like a choice between two luxury automobiles. Which ride would you like to drive all the way to Indianapolis for the Final Four?
From the Lexington, Ky., plant rolls out John Wall, a sleek new model built for speed with an affinity for performance at the finish line.
Out of Columbus, Ohio, comes Evan Turner. He’s got a few more miles on the tires but features some options not found on the Wall.
Both players proved their value in dramatic fashion in huge road tests this past weekend.
Wall’s amazing blocked shot and tenacious drive to the bucket late saved Kentucky in a 58-56 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The following day, Turner, battling the flu and ineffective at the start, struck for 16 second-half points (20 for the game) and 10 rebounds in a 74-67 upset at Michigan State.
So will it be the BMW or the Benz? Or, for our purposes, who is college basketball’s best player?
GERRY AHERN’S RESPONSE
Evan Turner wins my vote and the reason is simple. At 6 feet 7 and 210 pounds the junior “point forward” can impact a game in so many ways – and he has. Turner is a huge threat as a scorer, averaging 19.5 points. His shooting touch is deft, as evidenced by his 54.1 percent field goal percentage. He is a force on the boards, pulling down 9.3 rebounds per game. As a passer? Well with 5.8 assists per game he leads the Buckeyes. In fact he leads OSU in all these offensive statistical categories. He’s also noted as a lock-down defender, lauded for his fundamental skills and overall court awareness. He averages 1.9 steals. Frankly, there’s nothing the Chicago native doesn’t do well. To be hyper critical, you’d like to see his shooting from beyond the 3-point arc improve. Wall’s rare skills are something to behold as well. But the deciding factors for me are diversity of game and impact on team. When it comes to the latter, it’s no contest. When Turner went out with a serious back injury in early December, the Buckeyes struggled, losing three of five, including their first two Big Ten games. Since Turner’s returned, they have surged back into league title contention and assured themselves of a nice seed for the NCAA tournament. Sure Kentucky is ranked higher and only lost once. But look at the cast supporting Wall. DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe …. Wildcats foes have a lot to worry about. OSU opponents can focus mostly on trying to stop Turner, but they haven’t succeeded. I realize player of the year is an individual award. I don’t think any other player in the country contributes more in more ways than Turner.
JASON KING’S RESPONSE
John Wall is the best player in college basketball and has been the entire season. No one is more deserving of the National Player of the Year award than Kentucky’s freshman point guard. What more does Wall have to prove? He’s the team leader and top scorer for a Wildcats squad that is 26-1 and a favorite to reach the Final Four. He continues to make plays in crunch time to lead his team to victory. That’s why the argument that Evan Turner means more to Ohio State than Wall means to Kentucky is ridiculous. If not for Wall, Kentucky would’ve lost to Stanford, Miami (Ohio), Connecticut and maybe even North Carolina. In SEC play, in the last week alone, Wall catapulted the Wildcats to victories by making huge plays down the stretch against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. That’s six games that the Wildcats probably wouldn’t have won if not for Wall. There were concerns that Wall was a selfish player. Selfish players don’t rank third in the nation in assists (6.5). People said he couldn’t shoot from the outside, yet time and time again, Wall has hit daggers from beyond the 3-point arc. Anyone who thinks Wall isn’t a good defender needs only to watch the replay of Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt, when he blocked a shot in the waning seconds to preserve Kentucky’s victory. Wall averages 1.9 steals per game, making him as complete of a guard as there is in the country. The one knock on Wall is that he is too turnover-prone. It’s a legitimate criticism for a player who averages four turnovers a game. Turner, though, has the same problem. He’s averaging 3.2 turnovers and had 10 in a loss to North Carolina. Turner is an excellent player and is more than deserving of first-team All-American honors. Wall, though, is special. Some have said he’s the top point guard college basketball has seen in decades and he’s been pegged as the likely No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA draft. The fact he’s handled the national spotlight this well as a freshman makes Wall even more remarkable.
Gerry Ahern and Jason King cover college basketball for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gerry a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.